First division - day 19

Real Madrid ended the first half of the season with a record number of points after beating Levante 0-2. It took them some time to get going though against the bottom club in the league, and once again Casillas (who shook off a stomach bug to play) was called upon a couple of times early on. Baptista and Robinho both hit the post after the restart as Madrid pushed forward, but it was not until a quarter of an hour from the end that they were awarded a penalty after Higuaín's cross hit José Serrano on the arm. Van Nistelrooy stepped up to convert the spot kick, and two minutes from the end the Dutch striker got his second of the night with an angled shot past Kujovic.

Madrid stay seven points ahead of Barcelona, who themselves are three points ahead of third placed Atlético Madrid. Javier Aguirre's side moved above Espanyol and Villarreal after a 1-0 victory over Valencia in the last match on Sunday evening. Visiting keeper Timo Hildebrand went from hero to villain in a few minutes, making top class saves from Raúl García and Agüero and then dropping Perea's cross at the feet of Agúero allowing him to score. Zigic hit the woodwork twice in the second half and Eller cleared a last minute effort from Helguera off the line, but Atlético held on to win.

Espanyol drop to fourth after a 1-0 defeat at Almería, the result putting an end to their unbeaten run of seventeen games. Kalu Uche got the only goal of the game three minutes from the end, heading in from close range after Negredo laid back a Bruno free kick. The locals deserved the victory though, Negredo having a goal disallowed and Crusat missing several chances before the goal, and they reach the midway point of the season in a respectable tenth spot.

Villarreal moved back up to fifth after a thrilling 4-3 win over Deportivo, their first victory in the Madrigal stadium in two months. The visitors took the lead twice, Sergio opening the scoring from the penalty spot, and after Rossi replied with a second penalty, Pablo Amo restored the lead following a second half corner. Nihat scored twice in three minutes though past stand-in keeper Fabricio (Aouate and Munúa were both suspended by the club after a fight), and Tomasson converted a third penalty before Guardado got Depor's third.

The defeat could signal the end of Lotina's time at Coruña, but if he does go, he won't be alone. Zaragoza coach Víctor Fernández was given the chop today soon after his side were held to a 2-2 draw by Mallorca, their ninth game in a row without a win. Varela's early strike was overturned by two headed goals from Diego Milito before the interval. But Güiza came on to level the scores once again and save a point for the Balearic Islanders. Zaragoza are expected to name Víctor's replacement tomorrow, although a caretaker may be in charge for the midweek cup tie at Santander.

Racing themselves are going from strength to strength, and they consolidated sixth spot with a 0-2 win at Osasuna. The Cantabrians were lucky not to be behind by the break, but they scored two in as many minutes near the end, Colsa heading the first and new signing Pablo Alvarez getting the second. Osasuna drop into the bottom three after other results went against them, albeit that eight teams are separated by just two points.

Valladolid are also doing well this season, and they are up to ninth in the table after beating Recreativo 3-1. Llorente got two early on, both on quick breakaways, with Camuñas getting one back for the visitors on the stroke of half time. A minute after the restart Llorente hit the post with a long shot, but he was not to be denied his hat-trick, which he completed near the end after running on to a long clearance from young keeper Sergio Asenjo.

Recreativo are just one place above the relegation spots, level on points with Betis, who beat Getafe 3-2 to move out of the bottom three. Pavone scored twice and set up Edu for another in between in the first hour of the match, and it appeared to be all over. But De la Red converted a penalty two minutes later, and Manu got a second soon afterwards to set up a nail biting finish. Getafe themselves are also on 21 points, just above their opponents due to a better goal difference. (13.01.08)

Barcelona threw down the gauntlet to Real Madrid with a 4-0 win over Murcia on Saturday evening. Gudjohnsen got on the end of Zambrotta's cross to put them ahead midway through the first half, and Bojan got the second after a good run by Henry down the left wing a few minutes after the break. Henry set up Eto'o for a third a few minutes later, and after Zambrotta hit the post, Eto'o wrapped things up with his second of the night from Giovani's cross three minutes from the end.

Athletic Bilbao beat Sevilla 2-0 later in the evening to move up eight places in the table to ninth pending Sunday's games. Yeste opened the scoring for the Basque side, running on to David López's pass to shoot past De Sanctis on the half hour mark. The visitors were missing several key players and had no reply, especially when they were left with ten men after Escudé was sent off for elbowing Aduríz. And midway through the second half Susaeta got his side's second after the keeper could only push out a shot from Aduríz. (12.01.08)